San Francisco

Fredric Hobbs

Bolles Gallery

An exhibition of paintings, sculptures and graphics by the versatile Fredric Hobbs recently shown at the Bolles Gallery featured works in various media which were in one way or another peripheral to the production of Hobbs’ cinema epic in three parts, Troika, and included not only sculptural props used in the film together with working sketches for props, sets and special cinematic effects, but also subsequently conceived variations and adaptations to plastic or graphic media of ideas and motifs explored in the film. Perhaps because cinematography has given a new focus to Hobbs’ diverse interests and capabilities, this show, as a totality, was possibly the most successful and compelling that he has so far presented.

Hobbs has long drawn inspiration from sources historically related to the theater, such as pageantry, choreographic ceremony and the formal masquerade. Impressions left on him by the traditional religious processionals which he witnessed during a sojourn in Madrid later led to his unique series of “Parade Sculptures” begun in 1963 with Parade for a Celestial Navigator and followed in 1964 by Sun Chariot (a sculptural fantasy in polymer synthetics which Hobbs constructed around an automobile frame and drove from San Francisco to New York City in 1964), Parade for Three Thieves (now in the Spencer Memorial Church in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.) in 1966, and the recent Trojan Horse (1968), another fantastically sculptured automobile body, a working model of which was included in this show since it appeared in the processional scenes in Troika.

Hobbs’ overall style is a unique, eclectic synthesis of which the dominant active ingredient is a characteristically theatrical fusion of German Expressionist mannerisms with a symbolism compounded of Freudian and neo-Gothic mystical elements.

Among the noteworthy features of this exhibition was a group of paintings in which shadow-gargoyles and death’s-heads, along with the “demonic bestiary” and fantasy panoramas of forbidding, cavernous nether-worlds, seem to lurk with hallucinatory elusiveness within a mesh of bold, heavy, calligraphic brush strokes stated in black against a flat, predominantly crimson field with sparsely threaded accents of yellow and bleached-bone white. Outstanding among the works in this vein were the Red Chorus (triptych) and The Albino. Adapting a similar palette and technique to a different theme was a forceful expressionistic portrait of the late Erich von Stroheim (1885–1957) in the monacle, uniform and suavely swaggering stance which characterized the World War I German Officerrôle Stroheim so distinctively created for the cinema of the twenties and thirties.

Palmer D. French